|Carpetbaggers and Scalawags
|Digital History ID 3106|
According to myth, unscrupulous carpetbaggers from the North
and unprincipled scalawags from the South manipulated the freedmen
to gain control of the state governments. Backed by the presence
of federal troops, they embarked on an orgy of corruption, humiliating
and impoverishing the helpless South and unsettling relations
between blacks and whites. At last - the myth continues - the nation grew weary of the
corruption and the cost of maintaining troops in the South. The
army was withdrawn and the responsible white citizenry regained
control of their governments.
According to this stereotype popularized after Reconstruction,
the carpetbaggers were dishonest fortune seekers whose possession
could be put in a satchel. "They are fellows who crawled
down South on the track of our armies...stealing and plundering,"
said editor Horace Greeley.
Contrary to legend, however, most carpetbaggers
were not impoverished opportunists seeking easy money in the South.
Rather they were former soldiers who migrated to the South to
seek a livelihood. They generated hostility because they supported
the Republican Party and defended the civil and political rights
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